Kernow: Thomas Flamank Commemoration

NEWS FROM THE CELTIC LEAGUE

‘Speak the truth, and only then can you be free of your chains.’ (Thomas Flamank)

Members of the Kernow Branch of the Celtic League bearing the Celtic League flag were warmly welcomed by Androw Hawke of the Cornish Nationalist Party (CNP), the Mayor of Bodmin, Cllr. Lance Kennedy and other Councillors, the Reverend Canon Graham Minors and Bards of Gorseth Kernow at the annual Thomas Flamank Commemoration in Bodmin on Saturday 27th June, 2015.

This year marked the 518thanniversary of the execution of Flamank, a Bodmin lawyer, who suffered the ultimate sacrifice for the Cornish people.

The commemoration service occurred at the town wall in Bodmin next to the Celtic cross where the CNP has a dedication plaque to this son of the town who with Michael Joseph ‘An Gof’, led the patriotic Cornish uprising of 1497. The CNP maintains active links with descendants of Flamank and has traditionally organised the evening.

Remarkably, Master of Ceremonies for the event was 13 year old Cadan Hawke who showed an excellent understanding of Cornish history.

After a rousing rendition of ‘Cornwall Forever’ a St. Piran’s flag and wreaths were laid and short speeches made to the gathered crowd by the Mayor, Cllr. Kennedy on behalf of the people of Bodmin, by Keith Truscott, Bard on behalf of the Deputy Grand Bard, by Cllr. Mike Chappell, Convener of the Kernow Branch of the Celtic League and by young Cadan Hawke on behalf of Margot Bruce, a direct descendent of Thomas Flamank.

All then joined in an emotional singing of ‘Trelawny’.

Afterwards there was two hours of Cornish music played by accordionist Mike Jenkins and singing in the Masons public house opposite the site, where pasties were enjoyed by one and all.

Mike Chappell, introducing his speech in Cornish said, ‘Times have much changed since our brave ancestors fought for their rights in 1497 and despite centuries of repression both the Cornish and their language have been finally recognised. With an eye to our distinctive history which gives us firm foundations, we now look forward to the future when there are great battles to be fought for our beloved country. Michael Joseph ‘An Gof’was a humble blacksmith, Thomas Flamank a lawyer, both from different parts of society but both Cornishmen. They gave their all for Cornwall. We remember them today an example to us still.’

Historical note

Thomas Flamank was a lawyer of Bodmin. Perhaps ironically, his father Sir Richard Flamankwas the Royal Cornwall Tax Collector and an estate owner, hated by the common people. There was a great deal of poverty amongst the tin workers and labourers of Cornwall and in 1497, when King Henry VII imposed yet another subsidy on the people to finance his war against the Scots, there was outrage in Cornwall. Thomas Flamank spoke at public meetings against the imposition of this tax. He compiled a ‘Declaration of Grievances’,enumerating the Cornish complaints about English rule.

Michael Joseph An Gof, a blacksmith from St Keverne roused his village to rebellion. In Bodmin Thomas Flamank followed this lead, urging the people to march with them and take their grievances to the King. They began to march peacefully to London, picking up supporters on the way. The Cornish became a disciplined army of around 15,000 men, effectively led by the powerful blacksmith, a natural leader, and the plausible Lawyer.

On reaching Blackheath, just outside London, Flamank and his followers were forced into battle against the King’s army in the Battle of Deptford Bridge. They were soundly defeated by vastly superior forces and Flamank was captured and taken to the Tower of London. Both he and An Gof were hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn Hill for their part in the Cornish Rebellion.

Michael Joseph before his execution is recorded to have said that he should have ‘a name perpetual and a fame permanent and immortal’.

Thomas Flamank was quoted as saying ‘Speak the truth and only then can you be free of your chains’.

In 1997, a march ‘Keskerdh Kernow’ (Cornish: Cornwall marches on) with hundreds of participants retraced the original route of the Cornish from St. Keverne to Blackheath, London, to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Cornish ‘Rebellion’.

A statue depicting the Cornish leaders, Michael Joseph ‘An Gof’ and Thomas Flamank was unveiled at Joseph’s village of St. Keverne and a commemorative plaque was also unveiled on Blackheath common. These now stand as well as two memorials in Bodmin and one in St Keverne in addition to the magnificent statue there.

kernow@celticleague.net

#celticleague

J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information
Celtic League

28/06/15

(Please note that replies to correspondence received by the League and posted on CL News are usually scanned hard copies. Obviously every effort is made to ensure the scanning process is accurate but sometimes errors do occur.)

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